Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Transfiguration, 11th Sunday After Pentecost
Volume 8 No. 492 August 3, 2018

IV. General Weekly Features

Family - an Orthodox Christian Perspective

By Archbishop Stylianos of Australia

Marriage as sacrament was instituted comparatively late in the Christian Church, but it appears that the soteriological significance of this institution may be traced as far back as the creation of male and female, as presented in the Genesis narration.

In other words, this means that the distinction between male and female does not signify an accidental or secondary phenomenon in the biological development of the species, but on the contrary reflects God's free will whose reason lies in God's essence.

The definition of God's essence as love (cf. I John 4:8), which is the foundation stone of all Christian theology, finds its fullest justification in the distinction between male and female in the crown of all creation, namely the human person.

The fundamental equality of male and female, already given in the original act of creation, is enforced by the fact of their difference that facilitates the experience of the deepest form of love as mutual enrichment in complementary communication.

According to all the above, one should clearly say that the significance of marriage as sacrament is, in the first line, given in the event of communion between male and female. This is the ideal presupposition for its expansion into the form of family wherein more persons share the blessings of communion and mutual respect. In other words, the sacredness of marriage and family primarily lies not in the creation of children or the continuation of the species, but rather in the quality of communion.

Thus the Christian family aims at the mutual sacrifice and sanctification of the couple in a divine unity which is modelled on the mystery of the Holy Trinity (that is, the Unity of the three Persons in one essence), and still more concretely and empirically on the unity of the two natures — human and divine — in the one Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. In both these doctrines of the Christian Church, namely the Trinitarian and Christological, the tension between the plurality of persons and the unity of essence is harmoniously balanced by virtue of divine interpenetration and love.

The Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon has coined two adverbs which became monumental in the whole Christian era as describing, in the most adequate manner, the mystery of unity and, at the same time, the integrity of persons living in communion among themselves. These adverbs are, as known, 'unconfusedly' and 'undividedly' Although these two adverbs were introduced by the said Council in order to clarify as best as possible the relationship between the two natures in the one Person of God Incarnate, the same adverbs can be applied to describe the communion and interpenetration, without subordination, of the three Persons in the Holy Trinity.

There is no doubt that the said two adverbs also signify the ideal conditions under which the institution of the family may achieve its divine goals.

The level of interpersonal relations between husband and wife is enriched in the family through a second level of relations between parents and children, as well as through yet a third level of relations among the children.

With so many and different levels of interpersonal relations, the family becomes the most dynamic and effective unit for the formation of the human personality. While in all other forms of human coexistence the driving force remains a social motivation, in the family and the Church, which is the family of God, the motivation is existential and sacramental. This is precisely why family and Church are of unique importance in the preparation of the individual as a citizen.

In practical terms, all this means that the person who has, in the family and in the Church, experienced the variety of love on various levels of interpersonal relations will be able to appreciate different qualities of other individuals in a secular society. Having experienced the discipline required as respect towards each person according to ones place and mission in the whole body of the family unit, one is ready to accept the same order and discipline in social structures. However, in order to be able to react in such a positive way within the society at large, one should have felt the security and enrichment through the presence of others in one's own family.

The sense of family among Mediterranean people — Greeks, Italians, Turks etc. — is admittedly still so strong that normally one member of the family does not feel bothered by the coexistence of the others. Of course, one cannot overlook the frequent and truly high mutual demands between the various members, demands that are not only unknown but also incomprehensible to a modern Western family. Yet the sacrifices often resulting from such demands are also compensated by a real and manifold support which one enjoys from all members of the family in every possible difficulty of life. This wonderful support sometimes makes one feel one's physical and moral powers multiplied by the number of members in one's family.

In addition to the above, one should conclude that the family, as structured in the Orthodox world, may become not only the nucleus of the entire Church body but also the ultimate refuge of faith. This is particularly true when atheism or persecution render the official life of the Church difficult, if not impossible. The best examples of this are the survival of Orthodoxy during the four hundred years of Turkish occupation in most Eastern Orthodox countries, and more recently the situation in the Soviet Union.

How Should Christians Discipline Their Children?
Question: "How should Christians discipline their children? What does the Bible say?"

Answer: How to best discipline children can be difficult task to learn, but it is crucially important. Some claim that physical discipline (corporal punishment) such as spanking is the only method the Bible supports. Others insist that "time-outs" and other punishments that do not involve physical discipline are far more effective. What does the Bible say? The Bible teaches that physical discipline is appropriate, beneficial, and necessary.

Do not misunderstand—we are by no means advocating child abuse. A child should never be disciplined physically to the extent that it causes actual physical damage. According to the Bible, though, the appropriate and restrained physical discipline of children is a good thing and contributes to the well-being and correct upbringing of the child.

Many Scriptures do in fact promote physical discipline. "Don't fail to correct your children. They won't die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death" (Proverbs 23:13-14; see also 13:24; 22:15; 20:30). The Bible strongly stresses the importance of discipline; it is something we must all have in order to be productive people, and it is much more easily learned when we are young. Children who are not disciplined often grow up rebellious, have no respect for authority, and as a result find it difficult to willingly obey and follow God. God Himself uses discipline to correct us and lead us down the right path and to encourage repentance for our wrong actions (Psalm 94:12; Proverbs 1:7; 6:23; 12:1; 13:1; 15:5; Isaiah 38:16; Hebrews 12:9).

In order to apply discipline correctly and according to biblical principles, parents must be familiar with the scriptural advice regarding discipline. The book of Proverbs contains plentiful wisdom regarding the rearing of children, such as, "The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother" (Proverbs 29:15). This verse outlines the consequences of not disciplining a child—the parents are disgraced. Of course, discipline must have as its goal the good of the child and must never be used to justify the abuse and mistreatment of children. Never should it be used to vent anger or frustration.

Discipline is used to correct and train people to go in the right way. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11). God's discipline is loving, as should it be between parent and child. Physical discipline should never be used to cause lasting physical harm or pain. Physical punishment should always be followed immediately by comforting the child with assurance that he/she is loved. These moments are the perfect time to teach a child that God disciplines us because He loves us and that, as parents, we do the same for our children.

Can other forms of discipline, such as "time-outs," be used instead of physical discipline? Some parents find that their children do not respond well to physical discipline. Some parents find that "time-outs," grounding, and/or taking something away from the children is more effective in encouraging behavioral change. If that is indeed the case, by all means, a parent should employ the methods that best produce the needed behavioral change. While the Bible undeniably advocates physical discipline, the Bible is more concerned with the goal of building godly character than it is in the precise method used to produce that goal.

Making this issue even more difficult is the fact that governments are beginning to classify all manner of physical discipline as child abuse. Many parents do not spank their children for fear of being reported to the government and risk having their children taken away. What should parents do if a government has made physical discipline of children illegal? According to Romans 13:1-7, parents should submit to the government. A government should never contradict God’s Word, and physical discipline is, biblically speaking, in the best interest of children. However, keeping children in families in which they will at least receive some discipline is far better than losing children to the "care" of the government.

In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are told not to exasperate their children. Instead, they are to bring them up in God’s ways. Raising a child in the "training and instruction of the Lord" includes restrained, corrective, and, yes, loving physical discipline.

Revival Starts with You

by Stephen Davey

Scripture: Matthew 5:16

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

How does the church gain the world's attention? How will the local church catch the ears of those who so desperately need to hear the gospel? It will only happen when Christians begin to get real with their faith and start living it out before men.

People are watching you. So, when you say you will do something, do it. When you fail at something, admit it. Don't claw and scrape and climb over others like everyone else. Trust that God is at work and settle for nothing less than the holiness and purity that He requires of you. Let this so establish itself in your character that it emanates from you before a needy and watchful world. If our gospel will change the world, it must first change us.

These words are from an Anglican bishop who lived a few generations ago. They were found among his last effects:

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older, I discovered the world would not change. So, I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But, it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family—those closest to me. But, alas, they would have none of it. Now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize, if I had only been changed, then by example, perhaps I could have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world.

This is where we must begin. It must start with the person staring back at you from the mirror, the one willing to make any changes necessary—not for your own glory, but for the glory of God. Christ reminds us in Matthew 5 that "they [will] see your good works and glorify [the] Father in heaven." Your ultimate purpose and joy will be in seeing others come to know the Savior as you have, for it is God who changes lives, and we are living testimonies of that.

For that reason, we are to be like mirrors in the world, reflecting His character. If the world is ever going to see God, they must first see Him . . . in us.

Prayer Point:

Pray that you will be a living reflection of Jesus Christ to the world, as well as to your church. Then, pray that God will work in the hearts of Christians in your church, calling them to dedicate themselves in living holy lives, breaching the gap between the church and the world.

Extra Refreshment:

Read Ephesians 2—reminding the Church how we were called out, and what we have been called to do.

Source: A Wisdom Retreat

How You Can Have Hope in Any Circumstance

By Warren Olson

Hope is an interesting thing, isn't it? While it comforts, many people I speak with are simply afraid to have it because they don't want to be let down. Maybe they've hoped for so long that they would wake up one morning pain-free, yet it never happens. Or, perhaps they have hoped that God would take away their loneliness, yet they constantly find themselves feeling isolated.

I recently read about an experiment performed a number of years ago to see the effect that hope has on those undergoing hardship. For this experiment, two sets of laboratory mice were placed in separate tubs of water. The researchers left one set of mice in the water and found that within an hour, they had all drowned.

The mice in the other tub were periodically lifted out of the water and then returned. After awhile, the researchers stopped taking them out of the tub, yet they swam for over 24 hours. Why? Not because they were given a rest, but because they suddenly had hope!

You see, those mice in the second tub had seen rescue before. And they hoped that if they could simply stay afloat a little longer, someone would reach down and rescue them again. Yet those in the first tub had never known hope. And because they had never seen hope materialize in the past, they simply gave up!

As we look into God's Word to see what our hope should really be, we're immediately drawn to Hebrews 11:1, which says, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

Here we see that the biblical idea of hope is very closely tied to the concept of faith. As a believer, you have hope because you have God-given faith. This means that faith in God without the hope that He will come through for you is not biblical faith. Rather, true faith in God means that you also have every hope He's going to work things out for your best!

Maybe today, you find yourself reluctant to have hope. Perhaps you've even seen God come through for you in miraculous ways before, yet you're hesitant to trust in Him to take care of you today. God is faithful. He knows exactly what you need and will work everything out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

In Jesus Christ, there's always hope. So whether your circumstances today seem good or bad, you can always have hope because of what He's done for you in the past and what He's promised you for the future.

©2013 Senior Living Ministries


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